Child Custody Decisions

Here you will find decisions concerning child custody.

  • Did you know that a parent may be awarded custody of a child who is over the age of 18? Custody ordinarily terminates when the child reaches the age of majority (18). In A.E.C. v. P.S.C., the Appellate Division concluded that the New Jersey Statute grants the family court authority to place a child between 18 and 21 in a parent's custody and to declare the child unemancipated if it is in the child's best interest and both the child and parent consent.

  • Relocation - The New Jersey Supreme Court decision in Bisbing v. Bisbing changed the standard that courts apply when a parent seeks to relocate out of the state of New Jersey with a minor child. Previously, the custodial parent had to demonstrate: (1) a good faith reason for the move and (2) that the move "will not be inimical to the child's interests." This was considered favorable to parents seeking to relocate. In Bisbing, our Supreme Court replaced the standard with the "best interests of the child" standard. The change makes it more difficult for relocating parents to meet their legal burden: now instead of showing that the move would not be inimical the child's best interest, the parent must affirmatively prove that the move will be in the child's best interest.

  • More Than Two Parents for One Child - Under what circumstances is a non-parent entitled to parenting time? A lesbian couple (A & B) gave birth to a child via a sperm donor. The non-biological mother adopted the child and was listed on the child's birth certificate. The parents separated and agreed on a custody schedule. Parent B entered into a domestic partnership with a third party C. When B & C dissolved their Domestic Partnership, C sought parenting time with the child. Both A and B argued against it because they never consented to a parent-child relationship between C and the child. The trial court agreed that both parents would have had to foster a parent-child relationship between the child and C before C could argue that she was a psychological parent. The Appellate Court reversed and held that C was not barred from exerting that she was a psychological parent. While there is a presumption that the natural/adoptive parents will have custody, a third party can overcome this presumption by showing that the parents are unfit or that there are "exceptional circumstances." One example of "exceptional circumstances" is when the third party is a psychological parent. Making this determination requires a multi-step test that looks, in part, at whether the legal parent consented and fostered a parent-child relationship between the third party and the child. The policy is to avoid severe psychological harm to a child. It is sufficient for one parent to foster such a relationship to give an alleged psychological parent standing to bring an action seeking parenting time. However, the lack of consent by the other parent is a factor to be considered at a hearing. The Court dismissed the argument that a child can only by definition have two fit parents. K.A.F. v. D.L.M.